Life & Culture

The World’s Greatest Collection of Sex, Drugs, Rock and Roll

Step inside the library of Julio Santo Domingo

  • TextMiss Rosen

Weed. Acid. Coke. Opium. Erotica. The Occult. There are many paths to achieve an altered state where mind and body blast off, leaving behind the mind-numbing banality of everday life. Fascinated by the possibilities of achieving transcendence on earth, Julio Santo Domingo (1957-2009) amassed the greatest private collection of sex, drugs, rock, and magic in the world – featuring some 100,000 books and objects by luminaries from Andy Warhol, Timothy Leary, and the Marquis de Sade to Charles Baudelaire, The Rolling Stones, and Aleister Crowley to name just a few. Writer Peter Watts teamed up with designer Yolanda Cuomo to create Altered States: The Library of Julio Santo Domingo (Anthology Editions), the definitive book drawn from the collection, which now resides at Harvard University. Here, alongside a preview of images from the book, which has just been released, Watts tells us about Santo Domingo’s passion for enchantments of all sorts.

“The son of one of the wealthiest men in South America, Julio Santo Domingo was brought up in Paris, educated in New York in the late 70s, and was very much a Europhile. He was an impulsive collector and his habit continued fairly uncontrolled until his wife suggested he focus it on a single subject. He chose ‘Altered States’ which is basically sex, drugs, and rock and roll. The collection reflects Julio’s vision and mentality, with everything from French Symbolist poetry to rare punk seven-inch records. It’s about rebellion, travel, black magic, beautiful books, flyers, and fake plastic marijuana leaves – the most unimaginable cheap stuff right next to extraordinary works of literature and artistic value. One thing I liked is the sense of humour in the collection. With the book, we are trying to tell the story of how the collection developed, of what Julio was like as a person, and of ‘altered states.’ We had to pick items that did all three of those at the same time. Yolanda did the visuals, I did the words, and we both became obsessed about it.”

Altered States: The Library of Julio Santo Domingo, published by Anthology Editions, is available to purchase here.